Don’t beat yourselves up over loss of sovereignty. There are compensations


Asked if they believed that Ireland had surrendered its sovereignty in accepting the bailout, 56 per cent said that it had, while 33 per cent said it had not and 11 per cent had no opinion.  Latest Irish Times poll

As Mick and others have discussed , it’s interesting how fashions of sovereignty change. I remember Dev’s grandson Eamonn O Cuiv telling me how Ireland finally won it on joining the Common Market in 1973 (though even if they hadn’t wanted to much, they have been compelled to join in with the British accession). Now Europe the Liberator has become Europe the Oppressor.

In the stormy debates on the Treaty in 1921, there were plenty of attacks about retaining  the Crown and accepting  Dominion status but I don’t recall an objection from the Republican side to keeping the link with sterling.

Britain can easily trump the Republic on loss of sovereignty from the point America entered the Second World War. The Bretton Woods accord, devaluations in 1949 and 1967 (which automatically affected Ireland ), the humiliating IMF loan of 1976 – not to mention Suez – are just a few examples of an interdependent Britain.

The concept of sovereignty depends on a nation’s self image. Much of that is an illusion. While the UK has the head start, Europe will be the whipping boy for both States for quite a few more years. Thankfully neither identity nor recovery  depend on absolute sovereignty. We remain who we are and even in a globalising world, recovery lies substantially in our own hands.

Consolation in the  decline of British sovereignty has been the shattering of  ideas of superiority. This has been a great help in improving the relationship between Britain and Ireland.  Perhaps the difference in experience accounts for such wringing of Irish hands  today. Ireland’s fall has been steep after only a decade  or so of feeling on top of the world, so the disillusion has been all the more profound.  You could  hardly imagine such an impact in the 1930s to 50s.  The bailout may be Ireland’s Suez.

Adds  Perhaps the most abrupt incursion on Irish sovereignty comes not from oppressors old or new but from the legal constitution of the European Court of Human Rights. While a majority of Irish people might vote against any form of abortion, legal provision will have to be made for it in life or death situations, all the same.

Finally, a Swiftian piece in Prospect

When the English next invaded, under the Tudors and then Cromwell, the reformation meant we could no longer marry them. So they slaughtered our leaders, which was fair enough, but also took 95 per cent of our land, banned our religion, destroyed our language, window-and-chimney-taxed us into dark mud bunkers, and killed millions by sword and famine. Now, that’s loss of sovereignty. It took us quite a while to win it back. If we want to keep it this time, we must learn from British best practice, as exemplified by Humphrey Gilbert in my own Tipperary. Having slaughtered as many locals as he could, he’d invite the surviving chieftains to negotiate in his tent, which they had to approach between rows of stakes on which their relatives’ severed heads were impaled. This technique helped him capture 28 castles without artillery; it would certainly persuade Anglo-Irish’s senior bondholders to take a haircut.